Sunday 5th February 2023. Read Isaiah 58:7-10, Ps. 112:4-9, 1 Corinthians 2:1-5, Matthew 5:13-16“You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid.’” (Matthew 5:14)
Our Gospel passage today is a continuation of one of Jesus’ most powerful sermons. Last Sunday, we heard the first part of this moving sermon; the Beatitudes. Today, Jesus tells us that it is enough to say we are children of God, we must let our light shine, that is, we must show good examples.
One way we let our light shine is (in the words of St. John in today’s second reading), loving the God we see in our neighbors. St. John tells us: “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.” (1 John 4:20).
Going further, one may ask: “How do I love brothers and sisters?” This is where our first reading today comes in. Isaiah admonishes us; the kind of fasting that makes sense in God’s presence is sharing our bread with the hungry, housing the homeless, clothing the naked, in short, helping all those in need of your help. Of course, you cannot like everyone on earth but today we shall be looking at one million reasons to help everyone who comes your way.
1. In Helping Others, We Taste like Salt and Shine as Lights
The key to being ‘the salt of the earth’ and ‘the light of the world’ is showing love to those who need it most: the hungry, the homeless, the naked, the sick, the prisoners, and so on. Although Isaiah’s list is not exhaustive, he basically draws our attention to the seven-corporal works of mercy which are: _Feeding the Hungry, Giving Drink to the Thirsty, Sheltering the Homeless, Clothing the Naked, Visiting the Sick, Visiting the Prisoners and Burying the dead_.
A Christian who does not practice these seven-corporal works of mercy cannot enter heaven. As Jesus Christ stated, on the last day, many would come before God and be sent out of heaven then, they would cry: “Lord, when did we see thee hungry and feed thee, or thirsty and give thee drink? And when did we see thee a stranger and welcome thee, or naked and clothe thee? And when did we see thee sick or in prison and visit thee?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.’” (Matthew 25:37-40).
As salt makes soup sweet, so do our acts of charity make the world sweet and bearable. With our situation in Nigeria now, the rate of depression and suicide has skyrocketed. A little kindness, a smile, a word of appreciation or even a simple hug rendered to someone might just be all they need to continue living.
2. Even when Nobody Appreciates It, Be Kind for God’s Sake
In today’s Gospel passage, we heard Jesus saying: “let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16). Is it the case that no one will give glory to God if we don’t let our light shine? No. Rather the point here is: The whole essence of letting our light shine is not for us to become popular or gather supporters (to vote for us later), but simply to allow God to receive the glory.
If you are kind, if you help others, if you perform the corporal works of mercy, please bear in mind that people may not appreciate you or even reciprocate your good acts. To be honest, I have had many occasions where my kindness was used against me by those I sincerely wanted to help. It happens. It is the nature of the human specie – we are always trying to take advantage of those we perceive to be kind.
Should this make you decide not to help anyone again? No. Continue letting your light shine but never forget that whatever you are doing is for the sake of God. If in all honestly, you do not intend to do it for God, then don’t do it at all. We live in a country where people pretend to be kind and generous but their external acts of benevolence are laden with hidden agendas.
3. Actions Speak Louder than Words
In our second reading today, St. Paul confesses that the success of his pastoral ministry was not due to his academic degrees nor his ability to use grandiose vocabularies, it wasn’t even because of his repertoire of philosophical sayings (words of wisdom), but rather it was due to his demonstration of the Spirit and of power. In truth, the best homilies are not preached with words but with actions. The world is tired of preachers, it only listens to doers.
Jesus himself said: “You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns or figs from thistles? So, every sound tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears evil fruit.” (Matthew 7:16-17). If we must convert souls to God, our words of preaching will be useless if we do not match these words with practical giving. If we fail to feed the hungry stomachs around us, we all miss out on our opportunity to touch their hearts.
St. James says: “If a brother or sister is ill-clad and in lack of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit? So, faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.” (James 2:15-17). It is in helping others that we prove we are convinced of the faith which we are trying to share. And if we are not convinced, how do we hope to convince others?
4. Charity Covers A Multitude of Sins, Brings Healing, Answers Prayers
As Isaiah puts it: “Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you, the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, Here I am.” (Isaiah 58:8-9).
Each time we pray, we approach God as beggars. To receive from God, it is only right that we give to those who beg from us. Jesus explicitly warned that our refusal to forgive others blocks God’s forgiveness implying that our refusal to give to others blocks us from receiving what is in God’s power to render to us. The only things that remain ours permanently are those things we give away. Help someone, put a smile on their face, and lift someone’s life today. It might be your turn tomorrow.
5. The Best Kind of Giving is Fighting Injustice
In our first reading today, Isaiah speaks of a deeper kind of giving: “If you take away from the midst of you the yoke, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness, if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday.” (Isaiah 58:9-10).
Isaiah is not just talking about sharing some bread for a hungry person this time around, he is pointing our attention to the real roots of poverty in our land which is the fact that some persons are disadvantaged (that is, under a yoke; afflicted, victims of wickedness; unfairly treated).
We need to understand that charity without justice is like bathing someone’s body after removing the head. If you deprive a person of what is theirs only to go behind them and pretend to be generous with peanuts, you are just wasting your time. Elections are just around the corner again, and vote buyers are getting ready to exchange votes with new naira notes. Be wise. Don’t sell your future; don’t sell your vote.
Never think your problems are the biggest. We all are carrying various crosses. We need each other. No one is too poor that he has nothing to give and no one is so rich that he has no need for help. Look beyond your challenges, and listen to the cries all around you. Be a good Samaritan, don’t just pass by. Don’t just point fingers. Help someone.
Let us pray: Heavenly Father, free me from selfishness, break my cold heart of stone and give me a heart that sees, a heart that cares, a heart that is not afraid to give. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Be Happy. Live Positive. Have Faith. It is well with you. God bless you. (5th Sunday in Ordinary Time. Bible Study: Isaiah 58:7-10, Ps. 112:4-9, 1 Corinthians 2:1-5, Matthew 5:13-16).
@Rev. Fr. Evaristus Abu